Highlights and main attractions of Cuzco, Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu

The geographical and spiritual capital of the Incan Empire and one of South America’s most mystifyingly beautiful cities, Cuzco is one of those rare places where even a two week stay does not feel enough. This is perhaps because of the wealth of intriguing sights that surrounds the city, a gateway to explorations into the fabled Incan civilisation. The Sacred Valley of the Incas is a fertile land fed by the Rio Urubamba, and contains a wealth of important citadels and Incan sites. The undeniably breathtaking and curiously inaccessible citadel of Machu Picchu is the most majestic and revered of the entire Incan heritage. 

This is often the focal point of any travellers visit to Peru, usually by trekking the original Inca Trail, or via some of our excellent alternatives.

Where is Cuzco & the Sacred Valley?

More details and some alternative routes to Machu Picchu

Cuzco is said to date back to 1100 AD and today is an aesthetically wonderful mix of Spanish and Incan influence; Incan sights such as the Temple of the Sun are not too distant from the Baroque colonial church of Santo Domingo and the labyrinthine cobbled walkways that snake through the city. The excellently preserved Incan walls and the ruins of Sacsayhuaman add an extra historical dimension, whilst the traditional Quechuan markets are juxtaposed with some of the country’s most contemporary restaurants and hotels. It is without doubt a perfect base for exploring the outlying regions.

The alluring Machu Picchu is most impressively seen from the original trail of the Incas, which starts from the Sacred Valley near to Ollantaytambo and can take between three to five days. The natural scenery here is beautiful and inspiring, passing by rivers, valleys such as Pacamayo and other ruin sites like Sayacmarca. At points the views stretch over the whole Vilacabamba Range. Your arrival at Intipunku is the setting for your first view of Machu Picchu, and from there you will explore the many terraces, temples, fountains and palaces of this infamous ancient site. The Salkantay route is a wonderfully luxurious alternative to the original trail.

The rest of the Sacred Valley contains peaceful hillside and quaint market towns such as Pisac and its Incan Fortress set atop the mountainside and Urubamba, which is backed by snowy peaks and the important sites of Chinchero. Here an interesting church has been built on an Inca temple and in Moray open-air colosseums were used by Inca as a nursery for crops.

Choose to stay in either the heart of the Sacred Valley in the Andean village inspired Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, set at a lofty 2,450 metres altitude, or Sol y Luna Lodge which naturally complements the surrounding valley. In Cuzco, Hotel Monasterio dates back to 1592 and combines sheer luxury with dramatic setting on Incan foundations, or the more intimate La Casona is a restored colonial manor enviably close to the main square.

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